bathes the countryside of san pedro de macorís
Just like the watermelon, the melon (Cucumis melo L) belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family, a large family with other edible plants such as pumpkin, zucchini, and cucumbers. It is a monoecious herbaceous plant that is cultivated for its fruit: a Summer season berry pepo, with creeping stems that can climb when provided the proper support. These stems are soft and hairy and grow at ground level, with patent bristles that provide a rough texture to the touch; they end in tendrils reaching up to 4 meters in length. The fruit has a thick skin and pulp in its interior, the color of which varies from white to yellow.
Melon is noted for being rich in betacarotene, which turns into vitamin A and is an antioxidant. It contains vitamins from groups B and C, a great amount of water (90% of its weight) and very few calories. Recommended for its folic acid content, this fruit also provides calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and it neutralizes gastric acidity.
Some experts consider that it is originally from South Asia, while others believe it is native to the African continent. Illustrations of this fruit have been found in Egyptian tombs from 2,400 BC. The Greeks knew about the cultivation of melon and it appears in their medical treatise. By the 3rd century, Roman horticulture manuals provided instructions about its cultivation. During the Middle Ages, melon continued to be cultivated and consumed, as a vegetable and fruit. The French obtained the cantaloupe melon or “French melon” in Italy, where it was very successful. Spanish settlers introduced it to the Americas. At that time, its size was no larger than an orange, but throughout the centuries it has grown in size as well as in type. Currently, it ranks in seventh place among the most consumed fruits, worldwide.
Cultivation of this crop requires warm, not excessively humid weather. Therefore, in humid regions with low levels of sunshine its development is negatively affected, resulting in alterations in the ripening process and the quality of the fruit. During the plant’s initial development relative humidity should range between 65 to 75%, an estimated 70% during its blooming period and 55 to 65% during the period of bearing fruit. The melon plant needs sufficient water, both during the growth period and the ripening of the fruit.
The duration of brightness in relation to the temperature influences the plant’s growth as well as the fertilization of its flowers and the rhythm of absorption of nutrients. The development of the flower’s ovary tissue is closely influenced by temperature and exposure to sunlight, so that longer days and higher temperatures favor the formation of masculine flowers, while shorter days with lower temperatures induce the development of flowers with ovaries. Moreover, the melon plant is not very demanding when it comes to soil requirements, but it yields better results in soils rich in organic material, deep and well-drained, with good aeration and pH ranging between 6 and 7.
More than 100 different melon varieties exist. It is generally classified according to its round or oval shape, the color of its yellow or white pulp, and the color of its dark green or yellow skin. Among the most known varieties are: the Honeydew, elongated with skin that is smooth and yellow. The pulp is pale yellow, very juicy and sweet. It can weigh between 2 and 3 kilos. The Galia, is a melon variety created in Israel. It has a round shape, and thin green-yellowish skin with earthy color striations. It is extremely aromatic and has a soft and watery texture. A relatively small fruit, it is ideal as an individual melon. The Cantaloupe, also called French melon, is round with light green skin and it has many peculiar net-like marks. Its pulp is orange and the texture is hard. This variety is appreciated for its flavor and aroma. The Piel de Sapo (Frog Skin) is oval-shaped with slightly rough, dark green skin, and a white, smooth, very sweet pulp. It has a high rate of tolerance to transportation. Finally, there is the Tendral, also called winter melon, which has a round or slightly elongated shape, with very thick skin, furrowed lengthwise towards the ends. It has a compact pulp, but is insipid and tastes slightly like green vegetables.
Melon planting and production in the Dominican Republic
Since the production of melons is distributed throughout the country, precise official statistics about the total sown area are unavailable. Nonetheless, it is known that, during recent years its cultivation has decreased although production has remained practically the same. This is due to the higher yielding hybrid varieties and greater specialization in the planting of this crop. The Cantaloupe and Honeydew are the two varieties produced here, grown primarily in the Montecristi zone.
According to Central Bank statistics, the volume exported has varied greatly during the past decade. Thus we see that after reach- ing 27,174 metric tons exported in 2002, with a value close to US$10 million, it gradually decreased until it reached a volume of just 218 metric tons in 2010. However, from that year exports began to grow again and reached 865 metric tons in 2012. Additionally, domestic demand has grown to the point where it has become one of the favorite fruits of Dominican consumers.